Lucas at Large: Shooting guards look to live up to their name

Gasser_Josh_Colgate_2011-12_RLD (2)_CROP.jpgType-casting is a big part of basketball - it's as simple as one, two, three.

The one is the point guard, the two is the shooting guard, the three is the small forward.

So when did the "shooting guard" become a part of the lexicon for Josh Gasser?

"Ever since the second or third grade when you started playing organized basketball and you always heard the term, 'Shooting guard,"' said Gasser, a UW sophomore, and shooting guard.

"You always knew what that position was - usually a scorer or someone who could handle the ball and do a little bit of everything. Probably the first shooting guard I looked up to was Ray Allen."

In most circles, Jordan Taylor is viewed as a point guard or lead guard. The shooting guards, or the two guards, are Gasser, Ben Brust and Rob Wilson. Or not.

"The good thing with us," Gasser said of coach Bo Ryan's system at Wisconsin, "is that we don't really specify that you're the shooting guard or you're whatever."

At this level of competition, he suggested that your game has to be well-rounded.

When Brust was asked if he could remember the first time that someone used the expression shooting guard in his company, he said, "It was at an age when you really don't remember things."

Does Brust look at himself as a shooting guard?

"I'm a guard," he said. "I think I'm more than a shooting - closed quotation - guard. I guess it's always been brought up as the two-guard being known as the shooting guard.

"But I just like to be known as a guard who can do a little bit of everything, if possible."

The genesis for the discussion on shooting guards was the Ohio State loss.

Gasser, Brust and Wilson combined for only two points against the Buckeyes.

UW associate head coach Greg Gard addressed that result before the Minnesota game.

Brust_Ben_Colgate_2011-12_CROP.jpg"We've got three guys who have played that position and who are capable of putting the ball in the basket at a higher rate than what they've done," he said. "All of them need to be more aggressive."

Each of the players has taken that to heart, too.

"In Josh's case, he's getting a lot of minutes (37.5 per Big Ten game)," Gard went on. "But his attempts to score per minute have been pretty low. It's something we've talked about."

Gasser responded by driving the ball at every opportunity against the Gophers.

"I did try to be a little more aggressive," said Gasser, who finished with nine points, four assists and zero turnovers in 39 minutes. "I found lanes that were open for me early in the game.

"Towards the end, I also found myself attacking and good things wound up happening - not only for myself but for my teammates.

"Even in overtime, when I penetrated and missed the lay-up, Ryan (Evans) got the offensive rebound and the put-back that really helped us extend our lead.

"I definitely made a conscious effort (to be more aggressive) and it worked out. We have to have all five guys being aggressive and attacking and looking to create for ourselves or teammates.

"Usually good things happen when we do that."

That was Gard's point for all three shooting guards.

"We've been trying to get Ben to be more diverse in his game," Gard said, "by attacking more and making plays for himself or others off the dribble while not being so reliant on the 3 (point shot).

"For Rob, it's just a matter of consistency and playing at a high level when he gets in there."
    
Brust agreed with Gard's overall assessment. "There are times where all the guards on the team have opportunities and we've got to be more aggressive with them," he said.

What about his reliance on shooting from beyond the 3-point arc?

Fifty-one of his 78 attempts have come from that distance in Big Ten games.

"I think I can maybe do some different things than just shoot and I may have been relying on that (the 3-point shot) too much recently," Brust said.

There have been times when Brust has been accused of "going too fast" by the coaches.

"Instead of just reading and reacting, you're reading and reacting too fast," Brust acknowledged. "You have to do it fast. But you have to do it with a calm fast. If that makes sense."

It does to Gard who sees the advantages of getting his shooting guards on track - in a hurry.

"We haven't had two out of three be consistent in the same game yet," Gard said. "As we go through the latter half of the season and into postseason play, we've got to have that group mature.

"If we could get a dozen points or 16 points out of the three guards combined that would be great. That's not asking anyone to even get double-figures.

"They have to play to make something happen - not play to not make a mistake. They're all good enough players and they've all done it at some point in their careers.

"Sometimes it's a matter of confidence and having it happen a few times. If it does happen, then it will open some doors for all three of them to be more aggressive in the future."

ON WISCONSIN